Thursday, November 5, 2009

NACCM 2009: The Little Things Are the Biggest Things

“Oh no you didn’t!” Have you said this to yourself after having an unbelievably disrespectful or frustrating experience on a customer service call? Emily Yellin, author of Your Call is (Not That) Important to Us, shared with us that we should focus on the little things that have the biggest impact on service.

Yellin is a Journalist who has traveled the globe covering 4 continents to talk to CEOs and customer service experts. What drew her into the customer service conversation was that she sat on hold for what seemed forever on a customer service call with a home warranty company. Not happy with the experience, she decided to investigate why customer service folks keep missing the mark.

Yellin reports that Americans make 43 million customer service calls a year. About 70% of businesses use call centers today as the main way to interact with customers. In studying the call center industry, she uncovered several things they are doing right and several things that can be improved. Yellin states that “this is a time in customer service that is really exciting”.

She talked about an experience she had with a call center employee by the name of “Pablo”. After several frustrating attempts to get a product delivered, she was ultimately able to speak to Pablo who was able to take care of the problem. Pablo worked as a supervisor for a call center in South America. She contacted the company and arranged a visit where she met with management. And there sitting at the end of the table was Pablo. He told Yellin he had never met a customer before.

Her research led her to discover three themes that companies who have “got it right” have been following. These are:

1) Design for it
2) Follow through
3) Provide value

Design of a customer service system is important. Getting feedback from front liners can be critical to creating good customer service systems. Putting yourself in your customers “shoes” or observing your customers as they experience your service are some of the best ways to evaluate your design.

Follow-through will make or break the perception of your service experience. In her research, she discovered that what call center employees say and what customers interpret are often two different things. For example, when a call center employee says “I’m not authorized to do that”, it really means “I’m not going to help you” to the customer.

Yellin suggests we watch the words we use to describe our roles. For her, Customer Relationship Management has a negative connotation. She doesn’t want to be managed. Words are an agreement between us, she says. Be sure you are speaking your customers’ language.

One thing the customer wants to hear from you is “Yes”. Anything you do to get in the way of “yes” is a problem. She identified typical call center mistakes:

1) No information
2) They don’t have authority
3) They don’t care

The final theme is that successful companies provide value. We cannot lose our humanity, says Yellin. It starts from the top down. When you’ve had your very worst experience, what emotions did you feel? asks Yellin. Feelings include frustration, disappointment, and anger which spread easily. According to a Customer Rage study, 70% of angry customers felt rage, 28% raised their voices to an employee, 8% cursed, and 57% of customers took their business elsewhere.

The opposite feeling is when the experience is good. “Shouldn’t that be our goal?” asks Yellin. Let’s spread the good and create those good feelings. Minor indignities are the seeds to horrible things says Yellin. When we talk about the carbon footprint, we refer to the little things we can do to make our earth better. Yellin suggests that those of us in customer service should be encouraged to make a “karma” footprint. What does your service footprint say about you?

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